When working with young players, no one knows where their final position will be. Letting them play in multiple roles helps them gain the skills they need.
“I think that’s what you have to do with young players; let them develop, and then you can see traits in them.
“So, what you do is you look at them, you look at the attributes they actually have, and you look at how they develop in certain positions, and then you say to them, ‘I think this is going to be where you're going to maximise your potential to be a footballer’.
“I went and observed Louis Van Gaal at Ajax for a week in 1996, just to watch the way they train. And I spoke to him about it. Ajax develop footballers; they don't give you positions at that particular age, they’ll develop you, and then you can see what position actually suits you.
“I think, at eight, nine, ten, eleven, you have to develop footballers to understand how to control the ball, how to dribble, how to pass, how to defend, how to attack, and just have a more holistic approach to it.”
Understanding how the team plays Having a clear philosophy helped Barnes to be effective. Understanding how the team plays leads to players being on the same wavelength. They know their own roles and responsibilities as well as those of their teammates.
“The way I played as a wide midfield player for Watford and the way I played for Liverpool was completely different. So, the most important thing is for there to be a philosophy on the way the team plays – and to understand it.
“At Watford, my job was to get the ball, get down the line and put crosses in. When we didn’t have the ball, I tucked into midfield and chased my full-back. In many respects, my first job for Watford as a wide midfield player was not to let the full-back get a run on. And if that happened, Graham Taylor would give you a hell of a time.
“Now, if I'm playing with Ross Jenkins and George Reilly, I can go down the line, put a cross in, and they're going to score. If I'm playing with a Gabriel Jesus or Sergio Aguero, as a wide midfield player, it doesn't mean I have to go down and put a cross in - maybe you have to pull it back along the ground. I've got to look for different things. But my job is determined by how the team plays and what the function is. So always for me, it's about understanding the requirements of the team.
“Yes, you can then work on individual aspects of dribbling, wanting on the half-turn, getting people off balance, to move inside to outside, to whip crosses around early, putting them in late, putting them in high and even low. But ultimately, it's really governed by your understanding of how the team functions.”
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